Houghton P. Metcalf, Jr. (HD 91) Director of the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab


Job Summary

Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) seeks a Houghton P. Metcalf, Jr. (HD  91) Director of the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab to join Research & Strategic Partnerships working to sustain the school’s culture of inquiry by offering a platform for research initiatives, providing opportunities for programming, training, and publication, and encouraging collaboration among students and faculty.

The Houghton P. Metcalf, Jr. (HD  91) Director of the Edna W. Lawrence Nature Lab implements the mission of the Nature Lab in alignment with the Academic Affairs portfolio and under supervision and guidance from the Vice Provost for Strategic Partnerships. The incumbent provides intellectual leadership that connects art, design, and scholarship to RISD’s strategic goal: to offer significant contributions to sustainability innovation. The Director conducts this work in partnership with academic Divisions, faculty, other RISD research groups and by means of facilities which include a biodesign makerspace, a natural history collection with over 100,000 specimens, advanced microscopes, and imaging systems. Outside partners, both local and international, collaborate with Nature Lab staff, associated faculty, and projects to investigate ethical, sustainable modes of making informed by natural systems and designed to benefit the environment. 


We seek a culturally competent candidate who will thrive in a campus environment that is committed to advancing the principles of social equity and inclusion, environmental and climate justice, and equal access to resources and opportunities.


Essential Functions:

Administrative Oversight and Staff Management

  • With a firm understanding of RISD workforce and fiscal management systems, prepare and monitor operating, discretionary, and grant budgets; approve and track expenditures in alignment with income and spending projections; hire, train and supervise new staff as required; provide thoughtful direction and support for staff and ensure that realistic goals and work plans for the Academic Year are developed and met.


Operations Leadership 

  • Develop and maintain the Nature Lab as a dynamic research and teaching resource.  Supervise the ongoing care and availability of the collection and support materials.  Acquire new specimens as needed; maintain federal and state permits and collecting licenses in good standing. Direct and oversee accessions and de-accessions (sales, exchanges, and transfers) in accordance with federal and state law. Ensure that care programs are implemented to maintain the inanimate collection in good condition and order and animate specimens are treated humanely. Monitor inventories of objects in the collection and advance systems for circulation and tracking; oversee the proper storage of all objects to ensure safety and accessibility. Supervise and direct the staff in an ongoing program of maintenance and improvement of the Nature Lab’s technical and imaging resources. Oversee scheduling of the Nature Lab spaces to maximize utilization by classes, individual students, and faculty. Maintain borrowing records of audio-visual, photographic and other equipment available in the Nature Lab.               


Education and Research 

  • With a keen understanding of Nature Lab vision and mission, proactively engage with the Vice Provost and faculty to determine programmatic, curricular and research priorities. Ensure that commitments for existing externally-funded projects are completed and reporting and compliance for federal and state grants meet established deadlines. Seek out connections between science sustainability and art|design, pursue mission-aligned grants and perform grant activity that will support innovative opportunities for faculty, staff and students.

  • Cultivate and maintain contacts with scientists, artists, designers, curators associated with other, similar collections, research activity and educational research centers. Serve as liaison between the Nature Lab and the RISD academic program as appropriate. Continue to conduct some of their own research to further sustainability innovation.


Institutional Support 

  • Partner with Institutional Advancement to cultivate and solicit potential donors to the Nature Lab and RISD. Partner with Strategic Partnerships to cultivate potential contract engagement with outside organizations.  Utilizes strong communication and marketing skills, broadens awareness of the Lab and its initiatives through the office of RISD Media and oversees external communications through the Nature Lab’s own media platforms.


Required Knowledge/Skills/Experience 

  • Demonstrated experience crafting science and sustainability content for art|design integration in coursework, activities and programming. 

  • Experience developing and maintaining strategic, high-level relationships with corporate leaders, federal agency program directors, donors, and senior college leadership

  • Excellent digital imaging and visualization skills related to scientific imaging.

  • Excellent writing and communications skills including the ability to effectively communicate with a wide range of external and internal constituents

  • Demonstrated experience with federal grants and communicating with federal agencies (specifically National Science Foundation) as well as grants management skills. 

  • Experience working effectively in a fast-paced environment and producing results under deadlines

  • Demonstrated collaborative and teamwork approach.  

  • Strong interpersonal and organizational skills required. 

  • Computer skills, including MS Office Suite.  

  • Demonstrated success in working with college students, youth programs, and adult continuing study programs.

  • Demonstrated experience with complex budget management including multiple sources

  • Ability to collaborate and engage with others who are different from themselves in meaningful ways through interactions characterized by reciprocity, mutual understanding and respect.  

  • Demonstrated cultural competence and ability to exhibit and advance principles of social equity and inclusion, environmental and climate justice, and equal access to resources and opportunities. 

  • Doctorate degree or equivalent combination of education or experience in a science, environmental studies, or related discipline, preferably with field work, or related experience required. 

  • Minimum of ten years combined experience in educational programming or teaching, with at least two to three years’ experience in leadership and management. 


Preferred Qualifications:

  • Museum experience with experience in preparation, maintenance and display of natural specimens, including live plants and animals.  


Union: No

Work Schedule: 35 hours per week; 12 months per year

Employment Status: Full-time; Exempt; Regular

Grade: 08/AD

Work Modality: On-campus

Documents Needed to Apply: Resume (Required); Cover Letter (Required)

Contact Information

Rhode Island School of Design
First Name
Last Name
de Cardenas-Norton
Contact Email
Contact URL

Background Information

Years of Experience
  • College/University
  • Non-Profit
  • Department Administrator
  • Finance, Operations
  • Grants and Contracts
  • President, CEO, Executive Director
  • Research Administrator/Manager
  • Sponsored Projects/Programs
Work Authorization
Authorized to work in the US
Security Clearance

Target Job Information

Job Type
  • Full Time